Can wearable devices lead to better health outcomes?

Reflections on the South BD Hub mHealth Workshop

By Chenzhang Bao

mhealth-phone-e1498589419307.jpgIn recent years, mobile health (mHealth) has become one of the most popular health care movements for patients and providers. Consumers have embraced the use of mHealth applications in their daily lives through wearable devices, and use these apps to monitor their exercise routines, heartbeats, and sleep quality. The use of mHealth apps is critical for research into new mechanisms designed to improve the quality of patient engagement; a factor that has previously been hard to measure or even unobservable to providers. One important research question looks at the relationship between patients’ usage of mHealth devices, their engagement in their own health and the future health outcomes.

Visiting the doctor is expensive, especially in an ER or inpatient setting. No matter what a person’s health status is, it is unrealistic for doctors to be around them all the time. Therefore, it is important for patients to take an active role and engage in care management between visits. From a doctor’s perspective, the point of care is moving to patient-centered, which empowers patients to make shared decisions with their doctors and allows doctors to coordinate treatment with patients when they are away from clinic.


mHealth Workshop participants discuss the impact of mobile technologies on healthcare and health outcomes.

Further, patients, their conditions and health backgrounds vary greatly, which requires personalized care that is geared to treating an individual patient’s conditions. In order to provide this kind of individualized care, doctors often need a rich and holistic view to comprehend the patient’s journey. However, it is hard for doctors to monitor patient engagement, such as how well they adhere to medication routines in home care setting. For these reasons, it is critical to understand how mobile health device usage would enable doctors and other health professionals to access to patient information and motivate patient engagement.

Understanding the impacts of mHealth devices is important not only to doctors and patients, it is of interest to insurers, taxpayers and all patients concerned about healthcare costs because the ability to monitor patient health behavior could help them reduce the “moral hazard concern” in healthcare, and mitigate the disparities of insurance policies.

The usage of mobile health devices has other impacts on patient engagement which may further influence patient health outcomes. First, although usage of mobile device does not allow doctors to directly observe every patient health behavior, it records real-time longitudinal patient conditions and builds a database that is accessible to the patient, thereby increasing the inference of patient behavior. Further, small wearable devices enable doctors to detect some patient wellness actions, actions that are unhealthy, and environmental factors that affect health.

For example, an embedded dynamic sensor could be designed to detect cigarette smoking or air quality in a patient’s community. In addition to these mechanisms to promote patient engagement, participants at the mHealth conference also discussed different strategies to incentivize active device usage, including the freemium model (providing a product free of charge but charging for premium features and functionality), aligning the interests of different parties, providing general or real-time health recommendations, and user interface design.

Chenzhang Bao is a student at the University of Texas at Dallas majoring in information systems. He is one of several students who the South Big Data Hub supported to attend an mHealth Workshop in May. The Conference was held in Chapel Hill and sponsored by the South Big Data Hub and the National Consortium for Data Science in collaboration with the Institute for the Future..   


The 2017 All Hands Meeting of the South Big Data Hub


When we launched the Big Data Innovation Hubs at the end of 2015, we could never have imagined that our mission of “breaking barriers, bridging solutions, and accelerating partnerships,” intense but rewarding work, would yield over 800 members—many of whom actively contribute to Hub communities of practice, dozens of productive partnerships, several funded new projects, and nearly 20 workshops. A year and a half later, on Friday, June 9, 2017, more than 75 people from across sectors and disciplines—academia, government, nonprofits, and industry—met at the Microsoft Chevy Chase Pavilion near Washington, DC, to assess the progress of the South Big Data Hub, and shape its future. It was a day of catching up on current efforts (some of which began at the first all-hands hub meeting), and sparking new collaborations.

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Microsoft Research looks back at a year of successful collaboration with the Big Data Hubs


Vani Mandava of Microsoft Research (far right), with leaders of the Big Data Hubs, from left to right: Fen Zhao, NSF program coordinator; Lea Shanley, South Hub; Melissa Cragin, Midwest Hub; Rene Baston, Northeast Hub; Meredith Lee, West Hub; and Renata Rawlings-Goss, South Hub.

Microsoft Research understands that taking full advantage of big data and new data technologies requires more than developing new tools and technologies. To paraphrase Vani Mandava, director of data science for the research arm of the tech giant, it requires cross-disciplinary research that extends well beyond computer science, and collaboration among domain science experts, computing and data science specialists, and industry leaders in technology and other verticals.

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AAAS and Big Data Hubs Offer a Deep Dive into Data Visualization

Digital data is ubiquitous and offers unprecedented opportunities for government, business, science and society. However, data is little more than noise if no one can make sense of it.

Data visualization, or presenting data in visual formats that are more easily comprehended by the human brain, help people make sense of data and tell stories with data. It is a tool that is vital to putting data to use to solve problems and make informed decisions. Continue reading

NSF BIGDATA and BDHubs Joint PI Meeting: a student’s perspective

Lucy D’Agostino McGowan

This post can also be found on Lucy’s blog

This summer I was funded by the South Big Data Hub’s DataStart program to intern at a local startup. Through this opportunity, I met the co-executive director Dr. Lea Shanely, who invited me to attend Hub’s annual Principal Investigator (PI) meeting if I agreed to blog about it (easy sell!). The goal of the 2017 Joint PI Meeting was to gather PIs who are funded through the NSF’s BIGDATA research program and Big Data Hubs and Spokes programs, along with industry and government invitees, to discuss current research, identify challenges, and examine promising opportunities and future directions of data research and education. Continue reading

Call for Proposals issued for May workshop on mobile health technologies

The South Big Data Hub (SBDH), in collaboration with the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS), will convene a workshop on May 15-16 at UNC-Chapel Hill to identify and prioritize research challenges in data science cyberinfrastructure (CI) to enable mobile health (mHealth) applications to address environmental health and related healthcare challenges in the Southern United States.

The proposed workshop will bring together an interdisciplinary group of experts to understand the requirements, architectures, and approaches for mHealth CI. The workshop will explore existing research to understand: What is the state of the art in mHealth CI? How do these architectures deal with potential roadblocks, such as privacy, security, and ethics?

The South Hub and the NCDS would like to invite graduate students in mHealth to apply to participate in the workshop. Continue reading

Expert panelists to discuss bots, lies, and the new information environment

The explosion of social media, blogs, and websites purporting to be news sources, along with a 24-hour news cycle and ubiquitous assess to the internet from cell phones and other devices, means a new information environment. That environment is radically different from the days when we depended on the New York Times and local newspapers for information, and it is rewriting the norms of social interaction, conversation, public discourse, and news reporting.

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